A single woman cited for unfair discrimination by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for posting a note on her church bulletin board that sought a “Christian roommate” has had her case dismissed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The woman, 31-year-old nursing student Tricia Rowe, was alleged to have violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against people of other faiths.
ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster called the attempt to criminalize Rowe’s effort to seek a Christian roommate “nothing short of absurd.”
“Christians shouldn’t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government for being Christians,” he said.
Oster argued “anti-religious groups wanting to confine Christians and their beliefs within the four walls of their church or home cannot also invade those very walls by forcing their own ideas upon Christians through threats of severe punishment.”
Rowe’s card on the bulletin board began, “I am looking for a Christian roommate.”
In its Oct. 21 letter, ADF reasoned that because Rowe is not a landlord and does not own a management company or run an apartment complex, federal and state law do not prohibit her from seeking a Christian roommate.
ADF attorneys asserted any government interference would be a blatant violation of Rowe’s First Amendment rights to freedom of association.
After an investigation, HUD sent a letter formally dismissing the complaint, stating that there was no reasonable cause for the allegation and that no discriminatory housing practice had occurred.
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights said in a statement that its probe revealed “legal issues that involved questions of federal and possibly U.S. constitutional law, which required that we coordinate with HUD to assure uniform application nationwide.”
ADF cautioned that even though the complaint was dismissed, the “anti-discrimination” housing law is still in effect.”
“The law states that a person cannot seek out renters based on gender or religion,” the non-profit legal advocacy group noted.
ADF said it is considering filing a lawsuit to strike down the law as it was applied in the church bulletin board case.
Oster pointed out the private Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, which issued the complaint, has a contract with the city of Grand Rapids stating the center will be paid for submitting a specific number of complaints reporting “discrimination.”
The ADF lawyer said there is “real concern when a special interest group like this center has a financial incentive from the city to file various complaints.”
“This complaint should have never been brought,” he said. “It is borderline frivolous to suggest that a single lady can be fined by the government simply for seeking a Christian female roommate to share her 900-square-foot house.”
ADF said neither Title VII of the U.S. Fair Housing Civil Rights Act of 1968 nor the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act No. 453 prevents a woman like Rowe from seeking a Christian roommate.
As WND reported, the Michigan agency’s spokesman, Harold Core, defended the citation, pointing to a HUD regulation, and explained the state of Michigan agrees to enforce federal regulations.
Core said section 604C states it is a “violation to make, print or publish or cause to be made, printed or published any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference” for a number of nondiscrimination factors, including religious belief.
The complaint alleged the woman’s statement, “I am looking for a Christian roommate,” prevents people of “other faiths” from contacting the woman and making arrangements to share her home with her.